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2018 cow slaughter numbers in review2018 cow slaughter numbers in review

Why is paying attention of cow slaughter important? Because it tells us what next year will be like.

Nevil Speer

December 12, 2018

2 Min Read
December 2018 Cow Slaughter
Nevil Speer

This column has regularly monitored beef cow slaughter. That is because it’s an important indicator of producer sentiment about the business. And it provides some important insight into the potential size of next year’s cowherd.  

Several months ago, Industry At A Glance noted that beef cow producers had liquidated roughly 2 million cows through August. Fast forward a couple of months: the total now stands at 2.53 million head through October. That’s the highest total during the past five years.     

Meanwhile, during the previous 10 years, the industry has liquidated 0.93% and 0.87% of the cowherd (1.8% total) in November and December, respectively. That rate represents 570,000 head over the next two months, based on a starting January 1 inventory of 31.7 million beef cows. 

Based on that extrapolation, it means producers will liquidate roughly 3.1 million head for the year. That’s right on pace with the prior guesstimate back in October. At that rate, total cow liquidation should run just a little under 10% in 2018. And as noted several months ago, that means next year’s starting inventory, based on analysis of previous years, should be about 1% fewer cows.  


Clearly, the regression model isn’t a perfect predictor. However, the general direction is solid. If nothing else, it certainly appears that producers don’t have much appetite for expansion at this point.     

Related:Market sees biggest fall run of the year

What’s your take on beef cow slaughter in 2018? How have you managed your cow sales? Are you making plans for further liquidation? If you’re in a drought area, what steps are you taking to manage inventory? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, Ky. Contact him at [email protected]

About the Author(s)

Nevil Speer

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY.

Nevil Speer has extensive experience and involvement with the livestock and food industry including various service and consultation projects spanning such issues as market competition, business and economic implications of agroterrorism, animal identification, assessment of price risk and market volatility on the producer segment, and usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Dr. Speer writes about many aspects regarding agriculture and the food industry with regular contribution to BEEF and Feedstuffs.  He’s also written several influential industry white papers dealing with issues such as changing business dynamics in the beef complex, producer decision-making, and country-of-origin labeling.
He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Dr. Speer holds both a PhD in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Contact him at [email protected].

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